This morning whilst travelling to work, I was listening to Nick Ferrari on the radio (LBC97.3) and an item that caught my attention. It was about smokers and how they cost companies, on average, £4,000 per year to employ more than their non-smoking colleagues due to lost productivity and increased insurance costs. Looking up the research later online I found an article from the International Business Times online that references the same research. It showed that absences cost businesses £344 per smoker, lower productivity amounted to £307, smoking-breaks were £2,045 and excess healthcare costs were £1,367. Which is why in the US companies are already introducing policies for smokers, some actually refuse to employ people who smoke because of the negative effects on productivity and the related costs. I guess it will be just a matter of time before we hear of UK organisations doing the same.
Following the ban on smoking in public enclosed spaces, that came into force in the UK five years ago, there appears little evidence to suggest smokers have given up smoking in huge numbers (as can be seen in the figures produced by the ONS – see table below). It appears that it has merely changed the behavioural habits of smokers – as we see by the numbers of smokers who congregate outside their workplaces to smoke. Arguably, the non-smoking policy that has driven this change in behaviour has contributed to an even greater loss of productivity. After all, when smokers were able to smoke whilst they worked – they continued to be productive, albeit potentially damaging the health of others through passive smoking.
I do wonder how many organisations specifically monitor cigarette breaks. Monitoring productivity by tracking time lost for breaks and sickness absence could help highlight the difference in an organisation between smokers and non-smoking employees. This in turn could help to support changes in workplace policies that would drive good health, increased productivity and cost savings. Organisations that deploy an automated workforce management solution will find it easier to capture accurate employee productivity data, therefore making informed decisions becomes more straightforward and fairer for all.